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Re-rastering Composited Layers on Scale Change

TL;DR

Starting in Chrome 53, all content is re-rastered when its transform scale changes, if it does not have the will-change: transform CSS property. In other words, will-change: transform means "please animate it fast".

This only applies to transforms scales that happen via script manipulation, and does not apply to CSS animations or Web Animations.

This means your site will likely get better-looking content, but it may also be slower without some simple changes outlined below.

Implications for web developers

Under this change, will-change: transform can be thought of as forcing the content to be rastered into a fixed bitmap, which subsequently never changes under transform updates. This allows developers to increase the speed of transform animations on that bitmap, such as moving it around, rotating or scaling it.

We do not distinguish between scale and translation transforms.

Put will-change: transform on elements when you need very fast (in other words, 60fps) transform animation speeds, and it is expected that rastering the element at high quality on every frame is not fast enough. Otherwise, avoid will-change: transform.

To optimize the performance-quality tradeoff, you may want to add will-change: transform when animations begin and remove it when they end. Be aware, however, that there is often a large one-time performance cost to adding or removing will-change: transform.

Additional implementation considerations

Removing will-change: transform causes content to be re-rastered at a crisp scale, but only on the next animation frame (via requestAnimationFrame). Thus if you have a layer with will-change: transform on it and simply wish to trigger a re-raster but then continue animating, you must remove will-change: transform, then re-add it in a requestAnimationFrame() callback.

If at any time during an animation, you want to raster at the current scale, apply the above technique to remove in one frame, the re-add will-change: transform in a subsequent frame.

This may have the side-effect of the content losing its composited layer, causing the above recommendation to be somewhat expensive. If that is a problem, we recommend adding transform: translateZ(0) to the content as well to ensure it remains in a composited layer during this operation.

Summary of impact

This change has implications for rendered content quality, performance, and developer control.

  • Rendered content quality: rendered output of elements which animate transform scale will always be crisp by default.
  • Performance: animating transform when will-change: transform is present will be fast.
  • Developer control: developers can choose between quality and speed, on a per-element and per-animation frame basis by adding and removing
    will-change: transform.

See the referenced design doc above for much more detail.

Examples

In this example, the element with the remainsBlurry ID will stay blurry after this change, but the element with the noLongerBlurry ID will become crisp. That is because the former has a will- change: transform CSS property on it.

Examples of transform scale animations from real applications